Message from the Director of CSIS

David Vigneault, Director

David Vigneault
Director of CSIS

The year 2022 has been exceptional and transformative. If there is a lesson to take away from 2022, it is that very little is predictable. Major events can unfold in the blink of an eye, and now, more than ever, we must approach security threats with eyes wide open and in partnership. More than ever, Canada and Canadians depend upon their security and intelligence services to ensure they are safe, secure and prosperous.  I am pleased to present CSIS’s 2022 Public Report, which details how we have undertaken this vital mission.

We live in a time of intense global uncertainty where our national security is under constant threat; and that threat emanates from multiple vectors. The Russian Federation’s unjustified and illegal invasion of Ukraine continues and foreign interference has intensified. These are but a few examples of the many attacks levied against the international rules based order, which are becoming all too frequent.

Here and around the world, the continued impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the unpredictability of the current threat environment. It has exacerbated certain threats, and given rise to others. For example, we saw anti-public health measures protests grip our nation’s capital and block border crossings in places such as Coutts and Windsor in early 2022.

Events like the Freedom Convoy protests revealed challenges across the security and intelligence community when dealing with a complex, multi-layered and dynamic situation that included both public order and national security components. Violent extremists of all motivations tend to exploit crisis situations and capitalize on fear, distrust, and uncertainty to spread their twisted worldviews, recruit others to their cause, and encourage acts of serious violence. Ideologically motivated violent extremism, or IMVE, is a complex threat comprised of a set of ideologies fuelled by extreme views around race, gender and authority. IMVE thrives on division, festers in the online space and radiates into other parts of society.  The hateful rhetoric from these ideologies is becoming normalized and seeping into the mainstream. Canada has seen the real world impacts of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and misogyny with devastating results. Approximately 50 percent of our counter terrorism resources are currently dedicated to investigating IMVE actors, influencers, and promoters.

The winter 2022 Freedom Convoy protests prompted a necessary and ongoing conversation about national security legislation in Canada, including the CSIS Act. This discussion featured renewed focus on the CSIS Act definition of threats to the security of Canada, enacted nearly 40 years ago. This definition has not always matched the expanding expectations from the Government and Canadians for information and intelligence from CSIS in the face of new and evolving threats.

While Canada continues to face violent extremist threats to our safety and security, foreign interference targets Canada’s sovereignty, democratic institutions, prosperity and communities. We are seeing foreign states and their proxies target elected officials, communities, and the press in order to covertly influence Canadian policy, public opinion and our democratic institutions. To advance their economic interests, foreign states are undermining Canadian innovation and industry including by targeting our open academic and research entities.

We continue to see threat actors exploit social media to influence their intended targets. For example, state actors leverage it as a means to spread disinformation, divide public opinion and generally interfere in healthy public debate and discourse. Non-state actors, meanwhile, use it as a means to spread conspiracy theories and inspire violent extremist actions.

Canada has benefited from broad adherence to the rules-based international order, but it is clear that the world is evolving in a way that is not favourable to Canada as actors seek to exploit weakness within the rules-based system. However, it is also clear that CSIS is able to take action and respond to these threats by providing trusted intelligence and advice to help ensure a safe, secure and prosperous Canada.

CSIS will remain focused on its mission of protecting Canada and Canadians from all threats to our national security. It will recruit to enhance and retain its unique workforce and as an operational agency charged with protecting all Canadians, it will reflect the diversity of Canada. It will become a more digital and data-driven organization that capitalizes on technology while protecting the privacy of Canadians. And, as always, it will be accountable to Canadians.

It is often thought that the work of a security intelligence service occurs in the shadows, but I can tell you that we are committed to transparency with our country’s citizens. It is essential for us to have the trust and confidence of Canadians to fulfill our mission. We will continue operating in a manner that is consistent with the democratic values that we hold dear and work hard to protect.

In 2022, we participated in a record number of Parliamentary committee appearances, enabling us to communicate openly with Parliament and all Canadians. We also participated in hearings related to the Public Order Emergency Commission, launched in response to the invocation of the Emergencies Act. CSIS employees are committed to transparency and, as Director, I will ensure that we continue to augment our work in this area.

Awareness is key to mitigate against foreign interference and espionage threats, and we are actively working to build resilience across Canada. To that end, CSIS has been delivering briefings to elected officials and their staff in all levels of government to better explain foreign interference and how it manifests. We are working with partners to help safeguard Canadian research and review investments that could present threats to national security.

I am happy to share that CSIS launched its employee-developed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy this past year. It is ambitious, but I believe that it needs to be;  we are deeply committed to its implementation and to continuous learning. DEI, however, is not simply about representation in our workforce. For CSIS it is about meaningful engagement with diverse communities, to build and maintain trust and resilience to threats across our country. This engagement helps us to better understand the concerns of Canadians and inform our policies, programs and operations.

As Director, I am immensely proud of all CSIS employees and I am grateful to each of them for their personal commitment and dedication to the mission.

The threats to our country continue to accelerate. I am confident that the people of CSIS will work with our partners to tackle them head-on to keep Canadians safe, secure and prosperous, into 2023 and beyond.


David Vigneault
Director of CSIS

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